Are Competencies Dead? A Case for Values, Capabilities

April 24th, 2013 by Sarah Green Leave a reply »

Within Zircon, Dr Amanda Potter and her team of Occupational Psychologists are finding that more and more organisations are looking to adopt a values or strengths-based recruitment process. We are often asked, “How can we assess Cultural Fit?” and “Does adopting a strengths-based or values-based approach to selection mean we have to lose our competency framework?”

In answer to the first question “How can we assess Cultural Fit?” we believe it is important to assess values as part of the overall assessment process. Our talent model suggests that you assess: Values, Aspirations, Cognitive and Emotional Capability, Strengths and Competencies.

In answer to the second question, “Does adopting a strengths-based or values-based approach to selection mean we have to lose our competency framework?” we agree with colleagues from ‘Capp’ (the Strengths organisation) that the answer is no, absolutely not. We believe that Strengths and Competencies should complement each other and can inform the hiring organisation about the candidate from two different perspectives.

What’s the difference between a Strength, a Value and a Competency?

According to the experts at Capp, Strengths are the things that we do well and find energising. We may use our Strengths to a greater or lesser extent – sometimes without even realising that we are using them. At Zircon, we believe Values are the extent to which a candidate shares the same Values as the organisation. In comparison, a competency typically examines adequacy for a position. As a result, competencies risk getting ‘good enough’ rather than ‘high performing’.

Competencies are everyday practice

In many businesses, competency frameworks have been used to define the types of skills and attributes that employees are required to demonstrate. The intention of a competency framework was to define high performance consistently across the organisation. Unfortunately, this is not consistent in practice. Recent research supports the assessment of Capabilities instead, being more robust and measurable compared to competencies, providing a specific and distinct measure of behaviour, skill and knowledge required to be successful at various levels of an organisation.

Competencies are a starting point, but…

At Zircon, we believe that by combining Values, Capabilities and Strengths you will have a much more rounded and valid perspective of the individual.

1. Competence not excellence – assessing and developing employees in line with a set of company-wide competencies often leads to average behaviour rather than high performance or high potential behaviour.
2. Competence not motivation or aspiration – it is straightforward to assess competence, but harder to assess genuine energy, aspiration and motivation.
3. All talk, no action – in order to demonstrate core competencies at interview and at work, employees learn the competency catchphrases and recite them as needed. Indeed, Graduates are trained how to succeed in competency interviews.
4. Lack of individuality – being assessed for the same competencies across all roles means that candidates look very similar and cannot be properly differentiated.
5. Competency interviews rely on the past – people can be penalised if they do not have the necessary experience, even if they have the ability. As a result, competency interviews can miss future potential. We prefer a blended approach assessing competencies, strengths, values, aspirations and potential.

Integrating your Values, Capabilities and Strengths Framework

There are a number of benefits from using a combined assessment approach – measuring Values, Capabilities and Strengths. These include:

1. Future proof – both strengths and value assessments are not constrained by what people have done before, they are ideally suited for assessing people for the future in times of change.
2. Candidate differentiation – by conducting strength and values interviews, hiring managers are able to really get to know the person, rather than only hearing competency based answers.
3. Increased granularity – strengths and values assessments give a level of complexity and insight into the candidate that competencies alone just cannot reach.
4. Efficient and effective – strengths assessments tie into the specific requirements of the role, providing realistic job previews and avoiding generic questions that do not predict performance. Values assessments assess a broader fit with the organisational culture and climate.
5. Creating a shared language – employees celebrate their strengths as their personal characteristics, sharing them with pride, as distinct from the impersonal organisational language of competencies.
6. Increased diversity – building on people’s Strengths as well as their Capabilities, allows organisations to make the most of ‘spiky profiles’, while still ensuring that people meet the minimum requirements that are needed for the role.

Source:
Gurpal Minhas. The Capp Blog: Strengths OR Competencies – or – Strengths AND Competencies? May 2012.

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